Although the Nets struck the mother lode in NBA free agency when they inked maximum-salary free agents Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, this season will be an exercise in patience. Durant is projected to miss the season recovering from right Achilles surgery and Irving has been limited after suffering facial injuries in a pickup game.
Those two were mere spectators for the preseason opener against SESI/Franca from Brazil Friday night at Barclays Center, and reigning NBA three-point percentage leader Joe Harris, who played for the U.S. World Cup team over the summer, also was rested.
But the Nets successfully unveiled a roster deep in offensive firepower and experience, and trade acquisition Taurean Prince showed he can be the “stretch four” the Nets have needed with a 22-point debut in a 137-89 blowout victory.
The Nets had eight players score in double figures, also including David Nwaba and Dzanan Musa with 18 each, Caris LeVert and rookie Nic Claxton with 13 points apiece, Jarrett Allen and Garrett Temple with 12 each and DeAndre Jordan with 11. LeVert had nine of the Nets’ 40 assists, Spencer Dinwiddie had 12 rebounds and the Nets shot 60%.from the field.
Coach Kenny Atkinson lauded Prince’s play as the starting power forward, including a 6-of-8 performance from three-point range. “Taurean is following up on what we’ve seen in practices and offseason work,” Atkinson said. “Not only his shooting, but I was impressed with how quickly he gets it off. His release is really quick. He can get it off in small spaces. I thought he made nice passes, too, in the pick-and-roll and coming off ball screens and finding guys. Just a very good all-around game for him.”
Prince was acquired in a trade for Allen Crabbe that was viewed by many as simply a salary dump to clear enough cap spaced to sign Durant and Irving. The Nets also gave up a first-round pick, but it got them Prince, a player they were familiar with from when the Hawks assigned him to the Long Island Nets in the G League early in his career.
“It’s a blessing to play in Brooklyn and be able to contribute today and not only be around great people but a great organization,” Prince said. “I don’t feel I have anything to prove to anybody. My game does the talking itself.”
Prince said his time on Long Island allowed him to be familiar with the terminology and the offensive system. Certainly, the Nets’ new level of firepower was showcased against the Brazilian team.
“We know how much we have,” Prince said. “The front office did a great job of putting a great team together. We know what we can do and what we’re capable of and we know what we work on every single day. It’s all about applying it.”
No KD in China. Atkinson said Durant will not accompany the Nets to China because it makes more sense for him to stay home and work on his rehab. Irving and Harris both are expected to play in the next two preseason games against the Lakers in China.